Monday, April 27, 2015

Almost finished

We chewed up our allowable bandwidth when the kids were here and the internet has been slow.   I have almost finished the dolls.  One more wig to fasten to a head, knees to stitch and they will be ready for delivery.

I used the serger for the pinafores and bloomers and made french seams on the dresses.   Since I had no lace for the neck, I made the ruffled trim with the Ruffler. 

I love them.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


It really happened.  Spring arrived.  We had the first truly beautiful day of the season.  I had intended to clean up the yard with the pooper scooper.  Instead, Betsy and I went to JoAnns for the 50% coupon sale.  I bought fourteen yards of batting and a few other things.  Betsy bought fabric.  

After our trip I went right back to the sewing loft to work on the dolls.

I didn't need a fire.  Heck, I had the windows AND door open.  It was just that nice.  Of course, in August I won't think 61 is nice.  Today I did.
 See the sunshine behind the machine?  It looks like a light, but it is the real deal.  The sliding glass door is open.  We are celebrating!

These two dolls are numbers 8 and 9.  I would think that by now I would be pretty skilled at making the wig   I am not.  Yesterday I struggled.   I thought that dropping the feed dogs and using a darning foot would enable me to move the fabric and the yarn easily under the needle.  Not so.  I had discovered that wrapping the yarn with wax paper and stitching along the fabric made the process more smooth, but this darning foot idea sucked.  I got out the 15-90 and just stitched over the fabric, yarn, wax paper sandwich using the regular foot with the feed dogs up.  It worked quite well but the wax paper was stuck in the stitches.  I got most of it out, with effort.  Only a little dandruff left.

Today I picked up some black tissue paper.  Well, OK, some black party napkins; ten inches by ten inches.  I figured if I couldn't get all of the paper out, the black would blend in.  I also bought some worsted weight yarn.  I thought it might make a better wig than the DK weight I had.  Not so.

The process:

First you cut out a piece of fabric that is shaped like the head (it is an actual pattern piece called WIG)  then you sew a small dart at the top of the wig in the middle.  This gives it shape to conform to the stuffed head.

Next you wind yarn around a template.  The dimensions are given on the pattern.  I had the one from the original project ten or so years ago. 

The directions tell you to wind the yarn around the template, gently remove the yarn and sew it to the wig.  Right. 

I found that keeping the yarn from tangling as you remove it from the template is impossible.  In the past I strung a piece of yarn through all the strands BEFORE I removed the yarn from the cardboard.  That worked but was a bit laborious.  This time I fastened two thin strips of fabric to the cardboard template before I started winding.

If you can, try to wind the yarn loosely to minimize stretching.  Here it is, all wound.  I pinned the ends of the fabric pieces together.  Then I eased the yarn off.  It is tricky but if you crease the template first in two places, it will become a tube when you fold on the creases and the yarn will slip off.  No photo.  Too tricky.
Here you can see how the yarn "shrunk" back to its original size after coming off the template.  Having those strips of fabric really helps keep the yarn organized.
The idea is to end up with the wig looking like this.

 I placed the paper on the table and then put the yarn on top of it.  I arranged the yarn as neatly as I could using the strips of fabric, now loops, at each end to keep all things tidy.  Then I put the wig on top of the yarn and pinned it to the paper through the yarn. 

The lower stitch line, along the neck, was easy. 

Stitching around the head, PITA.

I used the black napkin first go round.  But I had to rip that out.  I don't know what went wrong.  Neither did the dogs.  It was now supper time and they were restless.  I was determined.  I used tissue paper this time. In my infinite wisdom and foresight, I bought some when I bought the party napkins.  There was no black tissue paper, just black napkins but there was blue tissue paper and that would have to do and it did.

Much better.

The wig is so thick that it is difficult to maneuver under the needle.  This Kenmore has a super high shank foot.  I dropped the feed dogs, positioned the fabric pinned to the yarn and paper,  under the needle, then I raised the feed dogs and sewed.  It worked pretty well.  I have a walking foot for this machine but I have never been able to make it work well.  Certainly that would give a nice even feed and prevent the yarn from shifting.  Next time.   

There is a bit more paper to pull out, but it comes out readily.  That wax paper was really tough. 
I think that once the wigs are stitched in place and the loops cut, they will look fine.  I am determined, though, to find a better way.  I honestly don't want to weave the yarn into the wig one strand at a time. That would be way to tedious.  

OK.  I bought a little fabric today too.    The dolls need dresses and while I likely have enough in my stash, well, it was just more fun buying this on sale. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


After we decided to move the Quilt frame into the sewing loft, we thought some more about the amount of work it would take to ready the space; work AND expense.

We took a look around the house and came up with a different idea.  Why not knock the wall out between the two guest rooms to make one room large enough to accommodate the frame?  I needed at least fourteen feet.

"That's not a bad idea.  I can do the work.  It only involves eating plaster dust for a few days.  We will need to get someone over to move the radiator.  But that's no big deal."  Steven was into it.

Our house is over a hundred years old.  The bedrooms are small and the closets smaller.   We started on the only closet in the two rooms and moved baseball cards and some other of the DS's personal paraphernalia out to the storage area. I hauled some stuff to Sal's and we made plans to donate one of the beds to Betsy.

The other two rooms are the Master (HAH, it's where we sleep) and Steven's "GYM."  It's really his room.  He has his stuff, bike trainer and his clothes in there.  I ride my little air bike in there too.  The windows overlook the yard. The light is terrific.   It's the best room upstairs.  Which explains why it is Steven's room.

 One day, on my air bike, I got out my mental tape measure and wondered if that room wasn't fourteen feet long.

"Honey,  I think we have 14 feet in your room.  Just enough for the frame."

"Let's see."  We measured (I held the dumb end). Thirteen feet eleven inches.

"I think it will work. It might be tight, but I think it will fit." I declared.

He agreed wholeheartedly.  "This is a great idea.  Much better than tearing out a wall.  I'll just move into the bigger guest room.  I think my trainer will fit just fine."  Now, the bigger guest room is bigger only relative to the smaller guest room.  It isn't larger than his room.  So this was a bit of self sacrifice on his part.  But not much.  He won't have to eat plaster.

That was about a month ago.  As long as we were at it, he decided to do some plaster repair on the ceiling and the walls. Then of course, came the paint job.  There was a gap between the baseboard and the floor that needed some trim. This meant that the baseboard needed to be scraped (someone had painted over the cherry).  I turned into the  proverbial can of worms.  We persevered  All of the baseboards aren't finished  and the rest of the trim needs work, but we moved the frame today. 

It wasn't too hard. Mostly tedious.  I had directions re: how to put it together.  We just started at the end of them and worked backwards.

The take up bar was already off of the frame.  The backing bar came off next and after that, the batting bar.  

We had to remove the rails to remove the carriage.  I have to admit, the electrical connection on this frame is quite elegant.  It is housed in a track that moves with the machine.  It was very easy to unhook everything. 

We hoisted the whole frame onto a couple of saw horses so that we could remove the legs. Four bolts at each end. 
Then we took the table apart, supporting the center with the adjustable out-feed support from Steven's table saw.  It worked quite nicely. 

Of course we had to haul all that stuff into the house, including the saw horses and the outfeed support.   Miraculously, we did it, without too much distress.  Well, one minor upset.

I was struggling with the 7/16 socket.  You really need two.  I had two socket sets, both pretty cheap and not at all well suited to the job.

"I have better tools than that," declared the Professional Builder Renovator, Mr Smarty Pants.

"Well, why don't you get them?" replied I, the independent DIYer.

"There is a specific reason why I didn't get them......Never mind."

Now I knew dang well what the reason was.  I had expressed that I would need his help but I would really appreciate it if he didn't just take over the whole job.  I had told him that I was concerned that the table needed to be set up just so and that I appreciated his help but I was worried that he might just barrel in and take over and not listen to me about it.  So he was pouting a little and acting out in a most disagreeable way

"Well, for heaven's sake.  Why don't you just get them so we don't have to struggle and quit being so passive aggressive about it."  So much for me being patient and appreciative.

He got his better tools and we were able to complete the job much more easily.  I think I will go tool shopping.  One of my 7/16 sockets is really 11 mm.  It works, but I deserve better.

I had to stand in the closet to take this photo.  There is not much wiggle room and Wilson looks worried.

I won't push the frame that close to the radiator (see below) when in use.  We might need the room for company and we pushed it there to see if a single mattress might fit on the floor.  It will, if you don't open or close the door.

I am thrilled.  The new machine is not due for a while.  I will have time to finish scraping the baseboard and maybe even get it sanded and a coat of polyurethane or two applied.  The new machine will have longer carriage rails.  I will drill a hole in each end of one of the rails for a lynch pin,  home made stop.  Looking at this photo, it's a must.  If I were to roll the machine off of the frame again, it would go right out the window!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


I have three 201s.  I am keeping the very pristine 201-2 that came in a lovely #42 cabinet and the 201-3 that I treadle.   The other one is cosmetically challenged.  I got it out the other day.  It really sews quite nicely.  I cleaned out the gunk from the needle clamp area.  Those of you familiar with the 201 know that sometimes getting that needle clamp back on with its "built in" thread guide is a PITA.  I managed to do it without too much confusion.  Afterward I noticed that the needle clamp had more play than I thought it should.  It sewed ok, but I was concerned that at high speed, the stitch would get wonky.  I love a nice stitch.

I spent a fair amount of time fecking around with it.  More than I should have.  I even tried to find a different needle clamp in my SR parts stash.  No luck.  Finally, I gave up and put the machine aside for a bit and played with the 401.

Sunday I decided to take another look.  I put Daffy (as in the Duck.  You know, ugly duckling) on the dining room table and set up Priscilla, the Pristine 201, in her cabinet

"Honey, come see if you think there is more play in this needle clamp than in Priscilla."  (I didn't really call the machine Priscilla, it would have totally confused the DH)

"Definitely."  He then sat down and scrutinized Daffy's needle bar area.  "It's not the needle clamp that's loose.  It's the whole needle bar.  Take a look."

"See?  When I move the needle clamp (B12) the whole thing moves.  If you could just tighten that screw (S3) that holds the needle bar connecting link (V3) it might help.  But you can't get to it."
I know that you know that he didn't really say THAT.   He really said "The whole thing moves and you need to tighten it up.  Looks like that screw might do it, but you can't get to it."

I said, "Oh yes I can." and I turned the handwheel to position the screw (S3) in an accessible position.

I tightened it up and there was NO PLAY in the needle clamp.  There also was NO MOVEMENT in the handwheel.  It appears that one must not tighten S3 too much.  I backed it off a bit and found that there was some play, but not much and certainly not nearly as much as there had been.  It was comparable to Priscilla's needle clamp play so I was happy.

So what did Steven do?  He looked at the problem area and followed it backward through the mechanics of the machine.  Four years ago Ray White taught us to do that on the first day of class.  I just focused too much on the needle clamp and failed to look at the bigger picture.  It is good to remember this.

The machine was also missing the second to the last thread guide.  I did find one in my stash and I installed it today.

The machine is quiet and smooth.  It is quieter than it was, now that the needle clamp has less play.  It makes quite a lovely stitch and I am enjoying sewing the dolls with it.  (I had to put the 401 away, the thread kept getting caught in the bobbin case.  Something is wrong there. )

I am pleased that the machine is working so well.  I have someone potentially interested in it and, while it was sewing nicely, that needle play bugged me to no end.  I was not happy about it.  Now, I am very happy with how the machine functions and absolutely happy to let it go. 

Today Steven returned home from Vermont.  He saw me sewing with Daffy.

"How's it working?"

"Great and I installed a new thread guide, too," and I showed him.

"Did you write a blog post about fixing the needle clamp play?"

"Not yet."

But now I have.  I wonder, do you think he wanted to show off?  

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Another cold, spring day.   In February I would have celebrated a high of 24 degrees.  Not today.  I could have warmed up the sewing loft.  Instead, I chose to sew inside.  I need a zig zag for my current project and I wanted to use the Singer 237 in a treadle stand.   I even brought the machine in from the sewing loft.  Then, I realized that I don't have a treadle stand inside.    Hmmm.  I used to have a Singer treadle stand in the house.  In my zeal to divest, I gave it, and the Red Head, away over a year ago.  It's not that I don't have treadles in the house.  They are all too small for the 237. 

Now, I do have a treadle stand that I can bring inside that will house the 237.  I probably will figure out how to do that, some day.  It means that I will have to craft a new top for it and find room, somewhere.  That's the bad news.  The good news:  I won't have to try to sell it. 

Instead, since I needed a zig zag, I got out the 401A.  It lives in the museum.  I would have preferred to use Lila, the 158.511 but it is  V E R Y  H E A V Y.  Steven and I put it away last weekend (it, too, lives in the museum).  Lila is a lavender colored machine and is the quietest motorized machine I have ever used.  It is a high shank, class fifteen, central bobbin, end loader.  I love using it.   SMO.

I hated to ask Steven for his help getting Lila  off the shelf today.  The 401 is much lighter. I opted for it.

It, too, is a smooth and quiet machine.  It isn't as powerful as Lila and I don't get the same thrill when sewing with it.  Just the same, I love it. I learned how to sew using this machine.  Mom would hold me in her lap and I would guide the material as she controlled the motor with the knee lever.  Later on, as a teenager I sewed peasant blouses and altered my jeans (making them skin tight as was the fashion).  I am glad I got it out.  It is a pleasure to use.

I am making a set of Raggedy Ann dolls for a friend's daughters.  M. is Peruvian and she has beautiful, dark skin.  Her hair is black and she has warm, wonderful, brown eyes.  I really didn't want to make pink skinned Raggedy Ann dolls, though that is the traditional doll.  I found some fabric that EXACTLY matches M.s skin tone.  I used brown felt for the eyes and red for the nose and mouth.  I know that is pretty traditional, but it looks ok.  

They will have black hair but very bright dresses and pinafores. I hope I can find some fabric that reflects M.'s Peruvian heritage. 

Oh, I guess that means it is time to go fabric shopping.  What a disappointment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Don't ask me how I did it.  I won't tell.  But a few weeks ago, I rolled the Nolting right off of the carriage and onto the bamboo wood floor in the guest apartment. 

It is true that I have tried, in vain, to keep a reasonable perspective on this mishap.  After all, my family and loved ones are all safe and healthy.  There are no real tragedies in our world right now and spring is on its way.  Just the same, I am B U M M E D.

The machine is on its way back to the factory for repair.  I am hopeful that it will not require much.  Just the same, shipping a 50 pound machine half way across the country is nerve wracking.

The hand wheel bent.
But it appeared that the shaft was ok.  Steven thinks that because this is aluminum it took to force and preserved the integrity of the shaft.  You can see it better in the photo below.  There are set screws that hold the hand wheel onto the shaft.  I don't know if they broke or not.

As best as I can tell, the machine landed on the hand wheel and then fell backward striking the sheet rock wall with the front handles.   There is a nice hole in the wall, just about the size of the left handle switch.  You can see the broken switch on the left  and that the handles are not even (these photos were taken in the shop.  Steven carried it down stairs for me and we put it on the bench)
Definitely bent 

 Steven noticed that it looked like the front hand wheel had been pushed forward some too.

I wasn't convinced because the whole thing still turned so easily.  I mean the motion was very smooth.  I figure if the shaft had moved, then the thing wouldn't turn.  

I had to take the front handles off to ship the machine.  I took that opportunity to look inside.  (I had been absolutely dying to do this ever since I brought the machine home but never dared to do so).  I took the side panel off and examined things.  Looks ok to me.  But what the devil do I know?
But wait,  what is that?  Some purple thread?  I never used purple thread when I used this machine.
I pulled on that piece of thread and got about three feet out.  Hmmmmm.  Makes you wonder how that happened?
Here is another view of the needle bar area.
No idear
The machine is scheduled to arrive in Iowa tomorrow.  I called to give them a heads up that it is on its way.  I will definitely feel better when I learn what the damage will cost.  Still, it's only money.  

My Wilson, on the other hand, is lame again.  Or something. But he got off the couch tonight to get some turkey.  So that's a good sign.  He came to greet me when I arrived home from work, but did not stand by the window this morning when I left.  Sure wish he could talk.  Which reminds me.

There once was this traveling salesman who drove by a house out in the country.  He saw a sign out front:  TALKING DOG FOR SALE. TEN BUCKS. He stopped and asked of the geezer smoking his pipe on the front porch.

"Do you really have a talking dog?"


May I see him?"

"YUP. He's out back.  Help yourself."

So the TS went out back and sure enough, there lying in the sun was a nondescript, black mutt of a dog.

"Can you talk?"

"Yes, yes I can." replied the dog. 

"Oh WOW.  How amazing."

"Yes, when it was discovered that I had this skill I was employed as a tactical agent for the FBI.  I could listen unobserved and report on the most notorious criminals.  I must have helped arrest hundreds of crooks.  Then, I got too bored with that line of work so I became a spy and worked for the CIA.  I absolutely was instrumental in thwarting many terrorist attacks and saved countless lives.  But I tired of all the thrill and drama and retired here, years ago.  Now I while away my days lying in the sun, chewing on bones and chasing squirrels."

"Wait, just a minute,  stay right here."  said the TS and he rushed out front to where the old man was still smoking his pipe.

"I'll buy him.  But why only ten dollars for that amazing dog?"

"Well, he may be able to talk but everything he told you just now is just a down right lie."

Friday, March 20, 2015


It didn't even get above freezing today.  It snowed another inch or so.   I could take the snow fall if we had had some 50 degree weather in here.  Heck, I'd take 40!

It has been a long and brutal winter.